Archive for August, 2009

Review:The Pretenders with Juliette Lewis and Cat Power.

Posted in Review on August 11, 2009 by thenewserials

The Pretenders Take No Prisoners

August 10, 2009

NYC, Summerstage

Monday August 10th 2009 is quite possibly going to go down as the hottest day in NYC in 2009. The meteorologist cautioned everyone: ‘If you don’t have any place to go please stay inside’. The sun began doing it’s damage as early as 9 A.M. but, we did have some place to go, for three months we had watched these tickets trying to use our long dormant powers of clairvoyance to see if weather was going to get in the way of our show, and nothing short of a hurricane was going to make us miss the Pretenders return in Central Park in over thirty-years.

We came early to take advantage of the General Admission status of the show, arriving at about 12:20 to a show that was going to start at 6. the heat was already beginning to beat down on us but, even being all alone on a line unobscured by any shade we knew that something felt different about this show. A few quick notes, the band did a sound check, which we heard, and they sounded in great form, it was a preview albeit much more subdued of what we would hear later.

Summerstage was pretty prompt, we were in the venue at 5 P.m. and Juliette Lewis took the stage at around 6 P.M.

For the sake of the show I’m going to go over Juliette Lewis and Cat Power’s sets in a paragraph or two each, find the Pretenders after them.

Lewis and her band (which she did not introduce) gave a solid show full of energy, she channeled the attitude of Tina Turner and Janis Joplin in her performance and her band was severely on point in their skill. However great Lewis was it all seemed ‘too’ exciting as some point, the energy on stage was constantly blasted into the audience and her fireball attitude was fun but, didn’t seem to command the audience but, rather give a fun spectacle (this probably had something to do with the lady GaGa-esque outfit she was sporting). At one point Lewis jumped off the stage and into the crowd (proceeding to crash right into me and give me a face full of breast sweat) to dance with an excited fan, it was great BUT, my eye stayed on the band who relentlessly worked through the heat with such precision and expertise because truly, if Juliette had just any band she would not sound as good as she did yesterday and one shouldn’t take that as a bad thing, picking the right musicians is part of being a great frontwoman/frontman and Lewis proved she knows how to pick em’ (a sentiment that will only build until the end of the show). And I don’t often do this but, in the off chance that he or someone who knows the lead guitarist of Lewis’ band: Thank you and GREAT job, the only thing lacking from them was their NAMES, they were great and he was extremely gracious. She did mention that she was going on tour in October: Do It!.

Cat Power: I have to preface this with the extension that I REALLY loved Cat Power, please keep that in mind as this review might come across a bit seething. Cat Power is a great artist in her own right but, why in the world is she sharing a bill with the energized Juliette Lewis and The Pretenders? Her vocal skill is slightly unbelievable, she has the ability to literally sing anything and make it interesting and engaging, she’s also (as objective as this may seem) a very good looking woman, her brief, nervous smiles to the audience when someone would wave at her were almost somewhat apart of the show. Again the band was pretty amazing, whereas Lewis’ band was young and forceful, this band was sage like and expertly knew when to push it and when to pull it back. The fusing of cover songs with their unique style makes every song an exciting adventure waiting to happen. But again her mellow style between the two sets was SO out of place it really killed the mood Lewis had created not too long before but, everything would work out for the better…

With the sun finally going down under the horizon, the night sky began to make its clear appearance, the heat subsided, the humidity relented slightly as well, and  then whatever bit of calm Cat Power had ushered over us was broken instantly.

The Pretenders came out looking good and wasted no time and began the title track from their new album “Break Up The Concrete’, the band was loud, audible and utterly masterful in their performance, with few words between the songs the band blasted into “Message of Love’ from their second album Pretenders II.  The pounding of Martin Chamber’s drums filled Central Park with a primal rage that Central Park hadn’t seen since before it was paved over by man and was inhabited by the beast that are, now, long gone. Chrissie Hynde sounded great, as she always does and appeared to be in a great mood but, it wouldn’t be long that she would prove a point. Earlier in the show a radio jockey talked to the audience and erroneously announced the band as “Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders” (something I must admit annoys me to some degree, the band is one unit), but, the band, after the rockin’ performances of Pretenders’ ‘Kid’ and Break Up The Concrete‘s ‘The Nothing Maker” ( A song Hynde announced as being about a guy we wouldn’t see at parties, in a magazine, in the audience…”Well you just won’t see him”) would pull out the new scorcher “Roselee” and James Walbourne would show that this isn’t just Hynde’s show.

I can only put this in a crude way but, If you were in NYC last night and you didn’t catch the band last night you have failed yourself. Anyone who was there will understand what I’m speaking of, James Walbourne’s solo on “Rosalee” was akin to multiple orgasms, his relentless beating up of his guitar over the back beat of Martin Chamber’s steady but, always unpredictable drum beat was like watching a musical miracle take place. The energy Juliette Lewis had was all in that one solo, all the strutting, jumping and dancing in the world would not begin to scratch the surface of the pure mastery of Walbourne’s solo. It was good sounding and melodic, it was dirty, it was animal, it was sexual, it was right and wrong all at once and the audience needed a collective cigarette afterwords.

At the completion of his solo the band took pause to let the audience regain their composure, as a whole the audience could have possibly exploded due to all of the expelled energy of total and utter satisfaction to what can never, EVER be described in words. Languages of the world will never catch up to last night but, for now, I try.

“Rosalee” was followed up (forgive me if the order is incorrect) by another song off of Concrete “The Last Ride” which Hynde dedicated to a man who “started a secret society, so I probably shouldn’t even be talking about him but, he saved millions of lives”, Hynde again, switched to acoustic while Walbourne switched to a Paladin and they expertly played the mellow-ish and Dylan-esque rock song.

The band then went into the classic “Back on The Chain gang” an audience favorite, again I can’t explain what happened but, the sound and the sheer energy of the song was enough to satisfy for an entire show!  The band also performed “Angel of The Morning” a song they recorded in the 90’s after Hynde’s guest appearances on the hot-show-at-the-time “Friends”.

I’ve always loved the Pretenders version of “Angel of the Morning” but, could never stand the original, too long, too cheesy but, the Pretenders recorded version has Hynde’s forceful but, longing voice, as if it could get better right? The live performance was pure rock and roll! Her voiced echoed through central park “ohhh baby, baby, BABY, BABY!!!!” pure bliss, for a couple of seconds all felt right within the world.

Another classic: “Don’t Get Me Wrong” came with that great Pretenders expertise, if you’ve seen the band you know what I’m talking about, it’s kind of a departure from the studio version and a new experience live. Let me now mention Nick and Eric Heywood on Bass and Pedal Steel guitar respectively, they were awesome, a perfect back up and Hynde (well in these cases Adam Seymour and Steve bing) knows how to pick them.

“My City Was Gone” was a dream come true, all the country sultry sound and all the rock gritty and sticky nasty attitude that you could ever want. Hynde’s sarcastic and seething line “A, O Way To Go Ohio…” induced smirks and still today sticks the finger at the Regan era Akron, Ohio.

Without pause the band went into 1983’s “Thumbelina”. It starts with line: “Hush little baby, don’t you cry” innocently enough but, by the middle of the song James Walbourne AGAIN completely DESTROYS this song, he’s has now made it impossible for anyone to ever play this song again. Walbourne is the embodiment of a “guitar hero”. It’s a stark reminder that even though as a culture we’re fed The Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana, there still exist this nasty and somewhat rude guitar playing. It’s so good, that it’s almost offensive to watch, the playing Walbourne does is like watching a man having the most furious of sex and the most desperate of fights at once. It almost seems as if Walbourne and his guitar are having the most grave of disagreements and he finally takes charge by (excuse my french) beating the shit out of it and the sound that comes from that is pure animalistic rock and roll. THIS is what rock is and no band today can touch the Pretenders when their into it. In the end of Thumbelina the band speeds up to do a ho-down style end, usually it last all but, ten seconds but, last night Walbourne kept going and going and going! If musical energy could be channeled into usable energy America’s dependence on oil would be completely dismissed, for last night if Walbourne had gone on for another three seconds we all might have died from excitement.

As if taunting us Hynde says after the song “You Want To Rock?”

“Night In My Veins” from 1994’s Last of The Independents was something to behold. Again if you were there you know what happened. Martin Chambers proved with no remorse that he is the best rock drummer on this earth. The Pretenders have been using slightly violent and rough mottos for thier tours. Pirate Radio used the Skull and Crossbones, the Break Up The Concrete staff wear shirts that say: Demolition Crew, and though they aren’t a metal band or death emo or whatever, they live up to those motto’s in EVERY way. Night in My Vein’s could have killed a grown biker and taken his children for ransom. The Meshing of that groove bassline, Hynde’s voice and Chambers non-stop destructive drumming seemed to rip the fabric off of reality. As they got harder and harder the wind began to blow (and this is all literal now) the tarping on the stage was whipping in Eric Heywood’s face, rain came down and it felt like a hurricane was literally going to blow us away OR the band was going to combust on stage. I’ve spoken of this controlled chaos before, where the band seems as if they’re teetering on the edge of just flying off the handles and just breaking down, well this was it to it’s greatest degree, at any moment it felt as if Hynde, and Walbourne would careen off stage and Chambers, Wilkinson and Heywood create an impact akin to a nuclear bomb. All those who witnessed this power now either believe in God or Don’t anymore, because this was the kind of power that shifted axis’.

It would have been fine to leave us standing there dumbfounded and drooling but, the Pretenders were not going to take prisoners. Without a break the band pounded into “Precious”, I can’t keep gushing, I sound like a schoogirl, if you’re still unconvinced about the band then you will never be and you’re a total fool. Is that a bit rude? I guess it is but, I mean it, if you’re not convinced that you should go out this VERY second to find the nearest tour date to you and not think twice then I don’t know what to tell you my friend.

The setlist summed up after Precious with:

Boots of Chinese Plastic, the powerfully thoughtful and rough opening Track from Break Up The Concrete

Don’t Cut Your Hair, a song, apparently, inspired by Hynde’s meeting with Willie Nelson in which she proclaims: “From Ipanema to the Copacabana, the monkey’s give their asses for a piece of banana”

Mystery Achievement: The Bobby Womack inspired tune from the first album


The crowd favorite “I’ll Stand By you” All you rockers out there frowning at that…stop. They rocked it out like nobodies business.

The other Crowd favorite: “Brass in Pocket” which got a astounding cheer at its starts (some people couldn’t care less about Walbourne and Chamber’s abilities, they came to hear the one song they knew)

and the show concluded with a massive bang with Learning To Crawl‘s “Middle Of The Road”

I don’t know how to say this next part so excuse me if it doesn’t sound coherent.

James Walbourne is the sickest nastiest, most disgusting guitarist I’ve ever seen. He’s so fucking vile and gritty this man should be arrested on the spot! He’s transcended the use of positive adjectives to describe him. His guitar ‘skill’ (because that word isn’t powerful enough) is so utterly sick it’s offensive, he’s nearly giving us the finger and gloating about it, If you can honestly come out a Pretenders concert like last night and talk about Brass in Pocket and I’ll Stand By you then you’ve missed it totally. This man is a walking collection of filthy sex and lip snarling grit!

The Grass under which the Pretenders played won’t grow life until the messiah returns or until they reverse the effect by gracing us with another destructive show and confuse the bounds of physics with their skill.

Long Live The Pretenders!

Show Grade: A+ (++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++)